Here are the favorite episodes of six Western stars
See what Michael Landon, James Arness and more selected as their favorite pieces of work.
We all have our favorite episodes of television shows. You might gather ten Gunsmoke fanatics in a room and get ten different answers. That's the beauty of classic TV.
Well, the stars themselves have their favorites. It could be because of the finished product itself, or it could be a fond memory of making the show.
Although, in some cases, actors cherished episodes that were an ordeal to craft. Let's take a look!
1. James Arness's Favorite 'Gunsmoke' Episode: "Chato"
Considering Gunsmoke churned out 635, it's remarkable that James Arness, Matt Dillon himself, could single out a favorite, let alone remember them all. That's 20 years of work! Actually, it was one of the later tales that stood out in his mind. It was the 16th season opener! "The episode 'Chato' is probably my all-time favorite show," Arness told the Chicago Tribune in 2005. "Matt is sent out of his territory to stop the Apache, whose family was killed by U.S. cavalry, and we wind up having a certain understanding and friendship as the story evolves." Like "Space Seed," which some might claim as their favorite Star Trek episode, this story featured the inimitable Ricardo Montalban as a guest-star.
2. Michael Landon's Favorite 'Bonanza' Episode: "The Wish"
Landon's Little Joe barely makes an appearance in this tenth-season episode. The spotlight squarely shines on Hoss, as the big-hearted Cartwright helps a Black family dealing with prejudice in the post-Civil War era. Landon named it his favorite. That could have something to do with the fact that the actor both wrote and directed this installment. In fact, it was just his second directing credit on the series (and his second time behind the camera in his career overall).
3. James Garner's Favorite 'Maverick' Episode: "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres"
Perhaps some of this had to do with the fact that Garner got to spend the episode comfortably whittling in a rocking chair. It's also a flat-out brilliant piece of television, which carries many similarities to the classic film The Sting. Maverick would typically alternate episodes about Bret (Garner) and episodes about Bart (Jack Kelly). Thus, the outings with both Bret and Bart Maverick working together are quite special. It's charming that both actors selected collaborative episodes as their personal favorites, rather than a solo story.
4. Jack Kelly's Favorite 'Maverick' Episode: "Two Beggars on Horseback"
Remember, Garner was not the only star of Maverick. The show divided its time between brothers Bret and Bart. His co-headliner, Jack Kelly, cherished their time onscreen together, it seems. Kelly cited "Two Beggars on Horseback," as his favorite episode in the series. Well, to be honest, despite the story featuring both Bart and Bret, the plot centered around their rivalry, as they race to Deadwood on horseback through hostile territory for the chance of cash. Like "Sunny Acres," it is an ideal entry point for newcomers, as it showcases the two leads' personalities — and the show's varying tones.
5. Johnny Crawford's Favorite 'Rifleman' Episode: "The Vision"
It's a fan favorite, as the audience finally got a look at Lucas' dead wife and Mark's mother in a dreamy flashback. In a 1982 interview with TV Collector, series star Johnny Crawford named this episode as his favorite in the long run of The Rifleman. "At the time I remember thinking that it was very imaginative and unusual," Crawford said. "Also, at that time, one of my favorite shows was The Twilight Zone, so that was where my tastes were." Indeed, it is an outlier in the series. When young Mark falls ill, he experiences fever dreams. The actor himself was suffering from high temperatures during filming. Despite the hardship — or perhaps because of it, in hindsight — he held this particular work close to his heart.
6. James Drury's Favorite 'Virginian' Episode: "Felicity's Spring"
Don't be fooled by the hug. Virginian star James Drury and guest Katherine Crawford had an icy relationship behind the scenes. "It was a very bittersweet, poignant love story," Drury told Inspiration late in his life. "Well, at the time, I couldn't stand Katherine Crawford. I couldn't stand to be in the same soundstage with her." The feeling was mutual. They would finish a scene and scurry off to separate corners of the studio. They later became friends. "Despite that, we did some of the best acting in the show," Drury admitted with a smile. Perhaps that change of heart is what led the late actor to pick this story as a favorite.